American presidents and poets have long expressed their love of beer. Abraham Lincoln said he firmly believed the people could be depended upon in any national crisis, as long as they were given “the facts and beer.” Edgar Allen Poe wrote an ode to the stuff, and Charles Bukowski called brew his “continuous lover.”
Yet more than a quarter of American beer drinkers have switched to marijuana, or would switch if it was legally accessible, a new report finds. According to the Cannabiz Consumer Group (C2G), 27% of 40,000 people surveyed last year said that cannabis already does replace beer in their lives or could if the former were legalized.
Brewers, who in 2015 sold more than $105 billion worth of beer, stand to lose from this tradeoff. Specifically, about $2 billion annually, C2G predicts, noting that wine and spirits sales will be affected as well. Ultimately, the analysts project, cannabis will cost beer 7% of its market.
There’s some evidence to support the claim. A 2016 report from the investment research group Cowen and Company noted that cannabis consumption seems to be leading to lower beer sales in Oregon, Colorado, and Washington, the three states where weed is recreationally legal. The shift in consumption habits was apparently most dramatic in Denver, where people bought 6% less beer post-legalization. Analysts said too that higher-income consumers and men in general have been drinking less alcohol in the past five years, while weed use rose among those groups.
Also worth noting: Cannabis consumption has variety on its side. There are of course classic methods, like smoking flowers and hash, but enthusiasts can also take advantage of vaporizers, edibles, infused beverages, powders, tablets, creams, tinctures, and ointments, plus whatever’s in development.
More than 24 million Americans legally accessed weed in 2016, and the new C2G report argues that these figures will only grow. It projects that “legal cannabis penetration will settle at a level comparable to that of beer and wine and that a fully mature market would create a new $50 billion industry.”
Marijuana is already pretty popular with the kids, which could impact future consumption habits. A study on high school drug use across US states in 2016—conducted by Project Know drug rehabilitation centers and reported in The Washington Post—found that young people generally were more inclined to use marijuana than to binge drink.
That said, it’s probably too soon to write off hops, the consumption of which is a venerated American tradition. After all, marijuana and alcohol are not mutually exclusive. Take it from the third US president, Thomas Jefferson, who both grew hemp and appreciated a brew. He believed that beer, if drunk in moderation, “softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.”